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Rangers of the North: 18. Out of the Pass


The Chief Griffon led them up above the snow line
by narrow twisting trails that they had to tread
single file, leading the tired horses.

Culuros had a slightly glazed look in his eye, as
if he couldn't quite believe this was happening to
him. Cemendur sympathized wholeheartedly. A Warg
attack was nothing out of the ordinary but rescue by
mythical winged beasts most definitely was.

The Chief Griffon padded softly along just in front
of the Lady Beruthiel who headed their little column.
But several of his subjects, hippogriffs and wyverns,
were in advance of him, and several more trailed
behind Ereinion at the end of the column and wingborn
griffons passed and repassed overhead silhouetted
against the stars.

"Ah, as I thought we are heading for the Hallow."
Ellenion said suddenly in the peculiarly quiet yet
carrying tones characteristic of Rangers.

"Hallow?" Rumil echoed uncertainly.

"Built by my ancestors when they first came to
Middle Earth and dedicated to Manwe, Ancala (1) and
Varda." he explained. "We'll be safe from Wargs or any
other creature of the Shadow there."

The narrow twisting way brought them at last to a
broad ascending stair, its low wide steps dusted with
windblown snow and guarded at intervals by winged
statues modelled on their curious guides, leading up
to a row of massive stone pillars.

They passed between these and the cold wind that
had chilled them throughout the ascent cut off as if
blocked by solid walls. Within the outer file of
cyclopean columns was a second row of shorter, slimmer
bluestone pillars crowned by capitals in the form of
roosting eagles beyond which stretched a vast oblong
of intricately patterned tesserae. The stars and new
moon shone bright and clear overhead and the air
seemed perceptibly warmer.

"Let's get some rest." Beruthiel said crisply. Her
sons and the Elven twins promptly began spreading
their blankets, and after a moment the Gondor Men
followed suit.

As he settled himself on yet another hard stone
floor Cemendur saw a griffon fold itself down nearby,
paws curled catlike beneath it, and tuck its eagle's
head under a wing. He closed his own eyes taking that
last vision with him into sleep.
***

He woke some hours later to the morning sun shining
between two pillars at the eastern end of the Hallow.
The griffons, hippogriffs and wyverns were still
there, in fact there seemed to be more of them than
last night all looking attentively at the Lady
Beruthiel as she stood talking seriously with the
Great Eagle looming over her.

"I would offer to carry your party to the foot of
the pass, Little Sister," it was saying, "but I don't
think your horses would enjoy the journey."

"Indeed they would not." the Lady agreed. "We'll be
all right, Gwaihir, the Eldest of Manwe's Children has
agreed to lead us over the mountains by the paths his
folk use."

"I just hope they know we Men and our horses are
not quite so surefooted as they." Ereinion put in
mildly.

The Eagle managed somehow to frown worriedly. "I
will see that they do." and turned his head to address
a series of harsh cries to the Chief Griffon.

The asperity of the creature's answer required no
translation.

"He knows." Beruthiel said, eyes glinting
amusement.

"So he says." Gwaihir agreed ruefully.

Cemendur certainly hoped so. He looke curiously
around at their unexpected refuge. The mosaic floor
was patterned with the stars and constellations of
Varda, a raised hearth cold and empty in its center.
Double rows of columns closed the long north and south
sides while a single curved line of the sleander
bluestone inner columns fenced the eastern and western
ends of this roofless hall, joined by balustrades
carved from the same stone.

Suddenly an obscure bit of ancient lore read before
he left on this journey surfaced. "This is Menelmar,"
he whispered awed, "the Hall of Heaven. Built by
Soronumen last Lord of Ondosto in Numenor and first
Prince of Egladil in Middle Earth."

"That's right." Ellenion, Soronumen's direct
descendant, looked at him interestedly. "I wouldn't
have thought our Southern kin would still remember so
much about us."

But Cemendur shook his head. "Nor do we. I saw the
name written in a loremaster's list long buried in the
archives of the White Tower."

The young prince shrugged, unperturbed. "We
remember little lore about the Southern Kingdom
either. It is only to be expected, we went our
seperate ways long ago."

And Gondor, Cemendur was becoming more and more
convinced, had gone the wrong way. The question now
became could that error be amended, or had the
Southern Kingdom fallen so far as to be unable to ever
rise again?
***

The remainder of their journey over the mountains
was bone chilling in more than one sense. The snowy
heights were bitter cold and they had no fuel for
fires, but their road also led along narrow ways above
dizzying drops, including one appalling transit of a
narrow ridge with great gulfs yawning on either side.

On the fourth day they finally began to descend,
passing from the eternal winter of the high peaks to
the warmth of summer in the lands below. The Chief
Griffon and his followers left them just above the
treeline, the Lady Beruthiel thanking them like the
queen she was by right, in formal Quenya, before they
bowed their eagle heads to her and turned to climb
back to their icy eyries in the distant heights. The
weary party of Men and Half-Elves watched them go for
a moment then continued down the wooded slopes to the
town of Oldford at the crossing of the Anduin.
***

The town was divided by the great river, the two
halves made up of tall, narrow wooden houses crowded
within a defensive drystone wall with battlements and
towers of undressed logs. A wide wooden bridge on
stone piles joined the two parts of the town. A large
hall, also of wood, stood on its north side with
clusters of gable roofed chambers clinging to its
walls. This was the home of Grimbeorn son of Beorn,
chief of the Men of the Anduin Vale.

He was a big Man, tall and broad and swarthy
skinned like the Men of Old Rhudaur on the other side
of the mountains, with thick black hair and a heavy
black beard. He greeted the three Rangers and their
Half-Elven kin like old friends and frowned darkly
over their account of the Warg attack.

"I certainly hope they were after Elladan and
Elrohir." he said when the story ended.

"Thank you very much." Elladan said drily.

"I mean," the Man explained patiently, "that we are
all in serious trouble if the mountain Wargs are going
to make a regular practice of attacking parties in the
Pass."

"Well there are a good many less of them then there
were. Hopefully they've learned their lesson." Elrohir
said cheerfully.

"That party of Dwarves got through safely enough,"
the Lady added reassuringly, "I doubt it will happen
again."

"Let us hope so!" said Grimbeorn with emphasis.

They spent the night in his hall, on wooden floors
this time softened by mattresses stuffed with straw.
Their party split up early the next morning, the Elven
twins continuing eastward towards Mirkwood and the
Lonely Mountain beyond; the Gondor Men and the Mortal
twins turning south to follow the western bank of the
great river to the borders of Rohan. But the Lady
Beruthiel remained in Oldford to continue her talks
with Grimbeorn and his chief men.

"Now, Berya," Elladan told her seriously as they
made their farewells at the door of the hall, "I want
you to promise me you will not venture into the Pass
alone."

She gave him an innocent look that would have done
credit to Cemendur's five year old great
granddaughter. "Why, Elladan, do you really think me
so reckless?"

"Yes!" answered the two Half-Elves and her sons
emphatically and in chorus.

The Lady laughed. "Truly I'm not so mad as all
that. Very well, Elladan, you have my promise. But I
still think you and your brother were the Warg's
intended prey, not me." looked thoughtful. "Though I
don't supposed they'd have minded getting me as well.
I'll recruit a few of our Watchers to accompany me
back, just in case."

All four Men breathed sighs of relief.

"I remember Prince Armegil telling us of the strong
wills of the Isildurieni." Cemendur observed to
Ellenion as they rode out the western gate of the town
and turned south.

"My uncle has a gift for understatement." the young
Man replied drily. "Willful and stubborn as Isildur's
sons undoubtedly are, his daughters are much, much
worse."

Remembering the little Princess Niphredil and her
formidable grandmother the Lady Ellemir, Cemendur
found himself inclined to agree.

*****************************************************

1. Ancala the Bright is the sister of Manwe and
Melkor, her domain is Fire and for a time the
destructive side of her nature dominated and she
followed Melkor but she repented. She is keeper of the
Flame of Anar, (Gandalf's Flame of Anor, the purifying
fire before which evil and falsehood wither). Don't
bother to look her up in the Sil or HoME, she is my own
invention.



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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 28 Jul 05
Stories: 24
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elemmire


An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition.

(C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.

Why This Story?

Ecthelion sends men forth in search of "Thorongil"'s secrets. (by Morwen Tindomerel) (C)

 

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: Beta

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/04

Original Post: 03/22/03

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